Does Your Child Need a Reading Specialist? 6 Ways to Help Your Child at Home, and 5 Signs You Need Back-up!
Reading problems in young children are not unusual, but they shouldn’t be ignored. There are easy strategies that can help a parent and child get off to the right start. Sometimes just a few consultations with a specialist can give you the guidance you need. Here are things to consider when planning or evaluating your own home reading time:
- Make reading practice a part of every day. The reason schools recommend at least 20 minutes of reading a night is that this type of practice is vital to success. Any reading teacher can tell you which students are reading consistently at home, and which ones aren’t. Your involvement as a parent can make a big difference!
- Use reading materials that are on the child’s current level. Perhaps you are trying to get your child to read daily, but are frustrated by what’s coming home from school. Assignments that are too difficult can create frustration and destroy a positive atmosphere, but material that’s too easy won’t help either! Talk to your child’s teacher to find out their current level, or look up the level of a book they can read somewhat easily. Accelerated Reader Bookfinder is an excellent resource (https://www.arbookfind.com/).
- Introduce new words before reading. If a child is struggling, the simple step of introducing the vocabulary beforehand (ideally with multisensory practice and games) can help them start reading with confidence.
- Make corrections fast and painless! Don’t let a child struggle with a difficult word. Help them sound it out quickly, and then write it down to work on later together. This one step can make a huge difference in a child’s level of frustration vs. motivation, and improve comprehension in leaps and bounds.
- Discuss the passage while you read. Don’t wait until the end of a passage to check your child’s comprehension. You may be surprised that your child doesn’t understand a common word, or is so focused on getting the words right that they’re missing the story! Ask questions, laugh together, and make discussion fun.
- Practice difficult words and patterns with games. Younger and older children benefit from practicing difficult words in a game format. For a demonstration of 5 easy games for reading practice, check out http://readingbydesign.net/?page_id=13512 Make sure you vary your activities day to day, and personalize motivational strategies for your child.
Even when reading time is positive and productive, a child’s progress may be slower than optimal, because of an underlying problem. Some children need specialized materials and specific types of instruction. Here are some of the problems to look out for:
- Your child struggles to sound out words that have been carefully introduced.
- Reading is very slow and choppy.
- Comprehension is consistently poor.
- Spelling is very poor, accompanied by reading difficulties.
- Your child has developed a resistance to reading.
If you have attempted to improve reading time but are still seeing any of the above problems, it’s time to ask for help. The good news is that your child can be helped! Children with dyslexia and a wide variety of other problems can become proficient readers who enjoy books; the key is to get help as soon as you recognize the problem is more than you can handle alone.
Quality reading time doesn’t just happen; it takes planning and practice. If you try these methods and have trouble implementing them, find a qualified specialist! It’s a lot easier to correct reading problems with a young child than to help a child who’s become discouraged and resistant to reading. Sometimes only one or two consultations with a specialist can give you the guidance you need to get your reader back on track.
Cathy Pelzmann, M.S., is a certified reading specialist with a Master’s in special education and 20 years of experience helping gifted, challenged and ESL learners excel. For more information on giving your reader every advantage, her book, How to Teach Your Child to Read: Help When the School Program Doesn’t Work, will be available for purchase on Amazon soon.
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